By ERWIN CHLANDA
A town council committee chairman says there should be financial investment by local government in projects that enhance the town’s appeal to tourists and locals alike.
This could include sharing the cost for the long-proposed national Indigenous cultural centre, as well as the residential and business complex planned by the council and the Uniting Church in Todd Mall and the current Hartley Street car park, a project that was given a new lease of life in the final Town Council meeting of 2016.
Cr Eli Melky says the council has $30m in reserves and has nearly paid off a $12m loan for the council chambers.
He is heading up the council’s Technical Services Committee whose responsibilities include urban development, infrastructure assets maintenance and development as well as open space development.
The Alice Springs News Online asked Mayor Damien Ryan on December 30: “Is there money in the council coffers, or borrowing capacity, to pay for projects stimulating the local economy and if so, which ones?”
He replied: “We have responsibilities [for providing services] but don’t have the ability to forward estimate deficits like the other levels of government. The Act doesn’t allow us to do that.”
Responding to the same question Cr Melky said the Act does permit council borrowing as long as it has the consent of the Minister, and council has done so.
He says the only hiccup may be that the current NT Government does not have a Minister for Local Government. No doubt another minister would step in.
Cr Melky says after nine and a half years under Mayor Ryan the town is “no better and no worse” off.
“We need to take the next step now,” says Cr Melky. “We have not progressed. We can’t just keep on doing the same thing any longer.”
He says both major projects have the capacity of attracting tourists. The Uniting Church scheme (google this site for details) would have the effect of bringing people into the CBD, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.
Cr Melky (pictured), who is currently in Hawaii, says he is astonished about the peace and security enjoyed by visitors to that island where tourism makes up 70% of the economy.
“The council can take a leadership approach,” says Mr Melky.
“It’s the view of most elected members that both projects must go ahead. Of course it would require majority support from the community to make the town council a financial partner as well as a driving force.
“I would encourage for this to happen. All projects come with risk.
“Does the town need economic stimulus? Absolutely.”
Commitment by the council would make it easier to find other financial partners, he says.
“The ratepayer can be an investor in making the town more vibrant.”
PHOTO: View into the Uniting Church grounds just off the Mall (during a nigh markets), the possible site of of a new residential and business complex.
By ERWIN CHLANDA